Knowledge for better food systems

The Sustainable Intensification of European Agriculture: A Review Sponsored by the RISE Foundation

This report builds on the dialogue built during a workshop held by RISE in 2014 regarding the measurement of farming environmental performance so as to further refine the definitions of sustainable intensification and the subsequent implications that such definitions pose on policy making to progress it. In doing so, the report explores three different case studies: The first case study focuses on soil performance and resilience. It shows how achieving sustainable intensification is highly dependent on having sound measurement of the underlying conditions.

The second case study deals with the chronic nutrient surplus arising from intensive livestock production to find solutions for recycling this excess into nutrient deficient regions. The third case study focuses on biodiversity, but in this instance by determining the extent to which tradeoffs must be made between biodiversity and agricultural production. The results of all three case studies yield the conclusion that the next increment in global food output must come largely from higher yields on existing land.


Buckwell, A (with contributions from Heissenhuber, A. & Blum, W.). ‘The Sustainable Intensification of European Agriculture: A review sponsored by the RISE Foundation.’ Rural Investment Support for Europe 2014.

Read the full report here.  

For more on Sustainable agriculture see FCRN’s work on sustainable intensification here. There is also the Science article Sustainable intensification in agriculture: premises and policies followed by Expert comments on sustainable intensification in agriculture.  See our earlier question – is the SI concept reclaimable? Comments and thoughts much appreciated - use the comments box below this story on our website. You will need to be logged in to do so, and if you have forgot your log-in details get in touch and we will sort you out.

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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